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Alcohol or Drinking-related ‘dementia’ is a form of brain damage caused by alcohol. If an individual has ‘dementia’ caused by alcohol, they will have difficulty performing daily duties. This is due to the damage to their brain produced by consuming excessive amounts of alcohol over a long period of time.

It’s possible that the person has memory loss and has trouble thinking things through. They may struggle with more difficult activities, such as money management. The symptoms may pose difficulties in everyday living. For example, the individual may be unable to prepare a meal.

It’s unclear if alcohol has a direct harmful effect on brain cells or whether the damage is caused by a deficiency in thiamine, a B1 vitamin.

Nutritional issues, which are common in those who drink heavily on a regular or episodic basis, are likely to be contributory factors. Vitamin deficiencies, particularly severe levels of thiamine shortage and the direct effect of alcohol on the absorption and usage of thiamine, may cause damage to key areas of the brain.

These medical conditions can occur in anyone who consumes large quantities of alcohol over a long period of time, although the majority of people do not. It’s unclear why some people who consume a lot of alcohol acquire dementia or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and others do not. Diet and other aspects of one’s lifestyle may play a significant role.

Men over the age of 45 with a lengthy history of alcohol addiction are more likely to develop these illnesses, while men and women of any age could be impacted. Anyone who consumes large amounts of alcohol on a routine basis for an extended period of time is plainly at risk.

Adults must drink no more than two standard drinks per day, according to the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, to limit the risk of all health complications associated with alcohol. Both men and women are subject to this restriction.

The clinical signs and symptoms of alcohol-related dementia vary depending on the kind of dementia. Despite the fact that many people are acquainted with Alzheimer’s disease, there are many other forms of dementia. For instance, primary progressive aphasia destroys language and speech, gradually robbing someone of their ability to communicate, but Korsakoff syndrome may allow a person to lie without understanding it.

The following are some warning indications that a person may be suffering from dementia:

  • Personality shifts that aren’t explained.
  • Complex problems are difficult to solve.
  • Navigation is difficult. It’s possible that you’ll get lost if you stick to a well-worn trail.
  • Problems with short-term memory. It’s natural to forget something from time to time. It’s not common to be unable to engage in a conversation due to a lack of memory.
  • Problems with cognition that make daily life challenging. A person may, for example, have difficulty following a recipe.
  • Poor decision-making abilities.
  • Confusion about time or location. A person might, for example, forget that they are living in the twenty-first century.
  • Chronic word-finding difficulties or growing difficulty understanding or processing speech are examples of communication issues.

Prevalence

According to a study, alcohol abusers had a 10-24 percent chance of developing dementia, while dementia patients have a high rate of alcohol abuse (9 percent to 22 percent).

Facts & Figures

Alcohol-related dementia (ARD) is frequently brushed aside as a comorbid condition. Because there are no clear diagnostic criteria for ARD, the prevalence and incidence of the disease vary from study to study. Variations in the socio-demography of the research sample could also account for variations. Demographic studies have attempted to link alcohol consumption habits to dementia. Alcohol dementia can start as early as age 30, but it is significantly more likely for it to appear between the ages of 50 and 70. The amount of alcohol consumed over a person’s lifetime has a direct correlation with the onset and severity of this type of dementia.

Sex seems to be a potential risk factor for cognitive decline, with women being more vulnerable despite having consumed less alcohol. A French study that looked at thousands of people revealed that moderate drinking (up to 4 glasses of wine a week) was linked to reduced dementia levels, and vice versa.

There is little evidence to believe that alcohol is protection against dementia at any level of consumption; some research showed the contrary, and the quality of evidence from contemporary epidemiological studies is generally low (because observational studies evaluating the health effects of alcohol consumption are unable to sufficiently control for potential confounders).

Regular excessive drinking of alcohol over a lengthy period of time causes alcohol-related neurological damage (also referred to as alcohol-related brain dysfunction or impairment). It can be caused by a number of factors, such as a lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine), the direct toxicity of alcohol on nerve fibers, head trauma, and damage to blood vessels. Korsakoff’s syndrome, Wernicke’s encephalopathy, and alcoholic dementia are the three main kinds of alcohol-related brain injury. The Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a mix of Wernicke’s and Korsakoff’s syndromes that can occur singly or in combination.

Balance and movement issues, poor coordination, disorientation, confusion, and aberrant eye movements are all symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy, which often develops suddenly.

Attention and focus issues, gaps in memory that are generally filled incorrectly (confabulation), and difficulty acquiring new knowledge are typical signs of Korsakoff’s syndrome.

Alcoholic dementia is defined by a decline in decision-making, planning, and risk assessment abilities. A change in personality is common, as is a loss of impulse and emotional control, which can lead to conflicts and socially unacceptable behavior. There are also issues with attention, focus, and memory.

Alcohol-related brain damage is more common in individuals in their 40s and 50s, accounting for roughly 10 percent of all occurrences of young-onset dementia. Due to changes in hormones, fat mass composition, and height-to-weight ratios, middle-aged women are more susceptible to the harmful effects of alcohol.

Alcohol-induced dementia has a mixed prognosis. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, roughly 25 percent of people will recover entirely with adequate therapy, about 50% will improve but not return to full function, and about 25 percent will stay the same.

Any progress in functioning happens within the first 2 years of the onset of symptoms. If an individual does not consume alcohol, their life expectancy may be normal.

As per the Merck Manuals, roughly 10–20 percent of patients with Wernicke encephalopathy who are left untreated will die. Yet, when opposed to Alzheimer’s disease and other varieties of dementia, where losses are chronic and progressive despite treatment, alcoholic dementia has a considerably better outlook with treatment.

The term “alcohol-induced dementia” can refer to a variety of conditions. While alcohol-induced dementia can relate to any brain damage resulting from degradation of brain cells as a result of heavy, long-term drinking, it is most usually associated with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), sometimes known as “wet brain.” WSK can be caused by a variety of health concerns, but it is most common in those who battle alcoholism. While binge drinking does not always imply an alcohol use disorder, the state of Massachusetts has a higher rate of binge drinking than the national average, with 21 percent of individuals reporting binge drinking in 2020.

WSK is the outcome of years of vitamin inadequacy causing nerve and brain damage. It can cause learning impairments as well as significant memory issues. Other cognitive impairments associated with alcohol-induced dementia include confusion and poor judgment. Alcohol-induced dementia is a serious and sometimes fatal illness that requires rapid medical attention.

Alcohol-induced dementia is frequently mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease. In terms of memory and rising cognitive impairments, the two illnesses appear to be identical. While Alzheimer’s disease almost always causes irreversible damage, WKS has a more uneven track record when it comes to correcting symptoms. The term “alcohol-induced dementia” can refer to a variety of conditions. While alcohol-induced dementia can relate to any brain damage resulting from degradation of brain cells as a result of heavy, long-term drinking, it is most usually associated with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), sometimes known as “wet brain.” WSK can be caused by a variety of health concerns, but it is most common in those who battle alcoholism. While binge drinking does not always imply an alcohol use disorder, the state of Massachusetts has a higher rate of binge drinking than the national average, with 21 percent of individuals reporting binge drinking in 2020.

WSK is the outcome of years of vitamin inadequacy causing nerve and brain damage. It can cause learning impairments as well as significant memory issues. Other cognitive impairments associated with alcohol-induced dementia include confusion and poor judgment. Alcohol-induced dementia is a serious and sometimes fatal illness that requires rapid medical attention.

Alcohol-induced dementia is frequently mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease. In terms of memory and rising cognitive impairments, the two illnesses appear to be identical. While Alzheimer’s disease almost always causes irreversible damage, WKS has a more uneven track record when it comes to correcting symptoms.

  • Drink no more than 14 units each week if you’re a low-risk drinker.
  • Stretch out your alcohol consumption over three or more days
  • Have days when you don’t drink
  •   Enhance your physical and mental activity
  •  Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Smoking should be avoided.
  • Find different coping techniques for alcohol consumption to handle stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol

Interventions and support are available for persons who have had their brains damaged by alcohol. If excessive alcohol consumption is stopped and vitamin B1 levels are increased, about 25 percent of cases recover completely, 50 percent of cases recover partially with some level of damage (but this remains essentially static), and 25 percent of cases diagnosed progress with brain and nerve damage and may require long-term care.

Excessive drinkers should gradually reduce their alcohol intake, as abruptly stopping or drastically cutting it might cause tremors, delirium, perspiration, hallucinations, sadness, anxiety, and insomnia.

A person who consumes excessive amounts of alcohol should consult their doctor for an assessment of the problem and referral to appropriate services and treatments for alcohol abuse. The GP may recommend the patient for alcohol withdrawal management, counseling, and medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and diminish the desire to drink. They might also suggest that the individual join a local self-help group. In addition, if the GP detects cognitive injury, he or she may refer the patient for a cognitive assessment and, if necessary, continuous care.

If someone has been diagnosed with alcohol-related brain injury, the person and their family should be helped to:

  • Make an individualized plan based on your skills and interests
  • To stay alcohol-free, follow the instructions.
  • Take part in a self-help group
  • Take vitamin supplements if needed and consume a healthy balanced diet rich in thiamine (green leafy veggies, fatty salmon, and whole grains).

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